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Temporomandibular Joint Disorder – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment Options

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD) is a chronic or acute inflammation of the temporomandibular joint. This joint is located on the side of your head, where the lower jawbone joins the skull in front of the ears. This is the joint that allows one to chew, talk and yawn. Temporomandibular joint disorder is caused by various types of conditions such as jaw injury, arthritis and muscle fatigue from grinding the teeth or clenching.

Causes of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Any motion of the jaw that causes it to open or slide beyond a normal range can result in an unnecessary strain on the jaw. Let us look at some of the conditions and factors that can cause this undue strain.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

  • Unconscious and repetitive grinding and clenching of the teeth, especially in the night, also known as Bruxism
  • Trauma
  • Opening the mouth extensively while eating
  • Teeth surface misalignment due to a dental defect
  • Jaw thrusting
  • Nail biting and excessively chewing gum
  • Degenerative joint disorders like osteoarthritis
  • Myofascial dysfunction syndrome

Risk Factors of TMJD

There are certain risk factors related to TMJ disorders. They are:

  • Jaw deformity – If you have jaw deformity by birth, then there is a greater chance of developing TMJD
  • Age and Sex – Women of ages 30 to 50 are more prone to this disorder.
  • Other disorders – People with fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, sleep disorders or chronic fatigue syndrome are more prone to develop this.

Symptoms of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Since the joint connects the jaw to the skull, any component of the TMJ viz. nerves, muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, teeth and the connective tissue can also be affected. Sometimes, even the ear would ache a lot due to the swelling of the proximal tissue. Let us look at some of the symptoms-

  • Difficulty in chewing and biting
  • Popping, clicking or grating sounds during mouth movements
  • A dull ache and pain along the face
  • Morning earaches
  • Morning headaches
  • Hearing loss
  • Migraine attacks, especially in the mornings
  • Jaw tenderness along with pain
  • Pain in the shoulder and the neck
  • Ringing sound in the ears (Tinnitus)

Treatment Options for TMJD

If any individual experiences more than one of the above mentioned symptoms at once, it is better to see a doctor. Since this disorder can affect any of the lying segments across the TMJ, the treatment may include several disciplines of the health care, especially neurology and dentistry.

The following techniques could be implemented in order to achieve a long-term relief from this disorder-

  • Orthodontics
  • Joint irrigation or arthrocentesis
  • Myofunctional therapy
  • Jaw splints that enable the muscles and ligaments in the region to move into a different position
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Surgery to reposition the jaw

Arthritis patients who have a previous history of jaw injuries are vulnerable to develop temporomandibular joint disorder.

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